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Wandering the World

Stories and tips from around the world.

Bramley 20

Usually my first race of the year would be 10K, but I had a lot of work needed to get back up to longer distance running, and so I sacrificed that for getting in more long runs. I’d need to rely on mid-week speed work, and getting in fast park runs when I could in order to build up speed. Endurance needed to come first when the end goal is actually Guernsey Ultra 36, rather than a decent time at the Boston (UK) marathon.

It was about an hour to drive to the location of the parking in Bramley, and the parking was £3 in cash. I’ve not carried cash on me in some years so had to make a special point of having some coins on me. I also had to make a small diversion along the way to a road which was flooded. I saw one car attempt to go through and this resulted in steam pouring out of their engine. I wasn’t going to even try it, so went back to the crossroads, and followed the race route round to where the car park was. This flood was likely what had put the race in doubt until they’d come up with a diverted route that added 0.06 miles onto the lap.

It looked like the spots of rain weren’t going to come to anything so I left my waterproof coat at the baggage drop and we made our way to the start, wished Carmen "good luck", and then talked to Tony for a bit before the start. He was there as a training run for Boston too, just not the UK one like I was.

The start is downhill, and then goes out of the village. Some parts had severe potholes, but it was possible to avoid the mud and puddles for the most part. I varied my pace a lot for the first lap, trying to maintain constant effort rather than constant speed.

I remembered the flood had been somewhere near to mile 5, so knew at some point we’d get to see what estate the course was going to go through and how the terrain would change. The hills in the first few miles weren’t too bad, and even with maintaining constant effort, I was averaging more or less the same sort of speed across each mile. It felt promising that I might manage my target of running at least the first lap, and thought maybe I could push myself to run without walking until past the half marathon point also.

Just as the course reaches the flooded road, it veers off through the Wellington Estate where we could see a barn, and various buildings. Although it seemed to be a farm, fortunately there were no cattle grids to content with. When leaving that estate it then went to the crossroads I’d been to when driving, and from that point on I more or less knew what to expect from having driven most of the remaining route.

At the water station around this point I did consider getting some water, but saw that there was a sign for energy drinks with no mention of water so assumed there was none at this one after all. Just as I passed it though, I heard someone call out to runners that there was water there, but I didn’t want to turn back for it so kept on going. I figured the next one would be after the ‘big’ hill so I’d be more than ready for some at that point, and I’d be using jelly babies by then too.

There is then a long, slow, gradual climb up to a T-junction, and this then winds through a slightly more built-up area which is where one of the tougher hills are, with the 8/18 mile sign just past this. It was a tough climb, and Tony overtook me not long before I got to it so I knew his race was going well. I ate a jelly baby at this point, but it didn’t react too well and was concerned about the second lap. I decided that was it for fuelling, and I should have used Tailwind like I had for Guernsey last year.

There is one smaller hill after that point, before you get to a crossroads which we’d past much earlier on int he race, this time taking a different road from it, and with signs saying 3/4 miles to go, 1/2 mile to go, 1/4 mile to go until it reached the finish line outside the school. A group of runners in front of me, half of them finished, and the other half, like me, continued on into the second lap.

In my tiredness on the first lap, I’d misread the sign saying ’10 miles keep left’ as 20 miles, and had to double check when I got to the split point. Fortunately it was only a momentary pause before I could continue on.

When I got to the bottom of the hill I decided rather than trying to carry on until the half marathon point, I was now ready to walk. I did so briefly and then got going again, but soon started walking again so I could remove a layer to tie around my waist. With the sun out now, and having had 10 miles of effort behind me, I was more than warm enough.

When I finished mile 11 I decided that I would try to do the remaining miles in around 08:30/mi, and would allow myself to walk for no more than 25% of each mile. At times this was hard, and I think I occasionally walked sooner than I should have, but got running again as quickly as I could convince myself to. The hills did feel a lot harder this time around, and there were times when I came close to running a whole mile between running breaks, but it was a considerably slower half, even though the time felt like it past quicker.

I was okay with letting myself walk, but wanted to make sure it was never for too long. There were two points when people said the same thing to me “try walking for 2 minutes then get running again”. I really didn’t need the unsolicited advice from the runner or the marshal, I had my own plan. In fact, at the crossroads just before mile 15 a marshal with a bike asked if I was okay because I was walking. How bad must I have looked?!

A male wearing red and black, running on the road

I thanked him and said I was fine, and asked if I should turn left there. He commented he was more concerned about making sure runners were okay then giving directions. This time around I used the water station and got running again, but found myself walking more in the last three miles than I had over the previous seven for this lap. I did make a point of trying to run up as much of the hills there as I could though. I remembered Carmen saying she’d been tempted to drop down to the 10 mile race, and I wondered if she’d be there at the finish having decided one lap of this was enough. I hoped that wasn’t the case though.

Although this lap was a lot slower than the previous, the time seemed to pass by quicker. I wondered if it was because I was now more familiar with the route, and knew every step was getting me closer to the finish.

I finished in position 126 out of 302 finishers, with a time of 2:41:14. It was over 20 minutes slower than my 20 mile PB from February 2019. That’s quite some difference, and quite some work to do if I ever want to get back to that point. Thankfully Carmen hadn't finished after 10 miles, and she'd done a great job of doing the full 20 miles in a good time.

Tags: 20mile race running sport

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© David G. Paul